Funny, it was only after I’d finished the Zen River Cookbook a few years ago that more attention in the media started going towards vegan cooking, and vegan cakes in particular. Maybe living in the Netherlands, where cows are so much part of the culture and landscape, it took a while for it to surface? So it was not that long ago that aquafaba – the liquid drained from cooked chickpeas or other beans – came to my attention.
Seems that it works brilliantly as an all-round egg substitute but it does need a bit of know-how. It was during a baking contest on BBC TV in England during a Vegan Week that I first heard about it. Their assignment to bake vegan pavlova baffled most of the non-vegan contestants. I was mystified myself and decided to work on it when I got back to Zen River.
So here is a cake recipe using aquafaba instead of eggs. With just one extra step and some speedy moves to get it into the oven fast it worked a dream. Because nobody noticed.
A little coconut oil or butter for greasing the tin
300 g (1 cup) lychees, canned in syrup
315 g (2 cups) white flour
1 tablespoon of baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
100 ml (about 7 tablespoons) aquafaba (drain the water from a can of
cooked chickpeas, and you’ve got aquafaba)
½ teaspoon white vinegar or cream of tartar
120 ml (½ cup) sunflower oil
110 g (½ cup) sugar
240 ml (1 cup) lychee juice, from the can with lychees or orange juice to
make up the difference
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 200 °C (400 °F). Line a 25 cm (10”) cake tin with a strip of parchment paper with a 5 cm /2 inches overhang and grease the tin with coconut oil and sprinkle with flour.
- Drain and reserve the juice from the canned lychees.
- Cut the lychees into halves.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the oil, sugar, vanilla extract, cloves, lychee juice, and orange juice if needed, until it starts to create bubbles on the surface, about 1 minute. Stir in the lychees.
- In a dry, clean bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.
At this point everything needs to be ready-to-go as the quicker the cake goes into the oven from now the better it will turn out.
- Wipe the inside of a mixing jug with vinegar to make sure no oily residue remains. Make sure the whisk is oil-free too. Then put in the aquafaba with the white vinegar or cream of tartar and whip it until it turns into a meringue-like consistency with firm peaks, about 5-6 minutes when using an electric beater on high speed. Set aside.
- Using a firm spatula, first sift in the flour mix and cut and fold into the wet ingredients until just combined. Knock out any large lumps. A few small ones are okay. Turn the bowl after each fold so that the ingredients are evenly distributed.
- Next, working quickly and lightly add half the aquafaba meringue and cut and fold it into the batter, using a firm spatula to reach into the bottom of the bowl. Turn the bowl after each fold so that the ingredients are evenly distributed. Repeat with the remaining meringue.
- Immediately pour the batter into the cake tin, and slide into the oven.
- Bake for 30–40 minutes, depending on your oven, or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean and the cake lifts away from the edges of the tin. Don’t peek during the first 15-20 minutes.
- Take the cake out of the oven and let it rest a few minutes. Then tease away the edges from the tin with a flat spatula so it is loose and can move easily. Test by shaking it side to side a little.
- Using the overlap of the paper, lift the cake from the baking pan onto a cooling rack and carefully pull away the paper from underneath.
- When the cake has cooled, slice and serve.